Barrett's Esophagus

Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders can be painful and interfere with your daily activities. You can rest easy, knowing that the experts at Henry Ford Health System offer high-quality treatment for all types of GI disorders, including Barrett’s esophagus.

Henry Ford: Our approach to Barrett’s esophagus

Our gastroenterologists (specialists in treating diseases of the digestive tract) offer the most advanced treatment options to manage and treat Barrett’s esophagus and other esophageal disorders. Together with specialty-trained nurses, registered dietitians, imaging technologists and other providers, we focus on relieving your symptoms to help you enjoy a better quality of life.

At Henry Ford, we perform a thorough evaluation to confirm a diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus. We then customize a treatment plan including lifestyle changes, medications and surgery, if appropriate for your overall health.

What is Barrett’s esophagus?

The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. Barrett’s esophagus develops when the lining of the esophagus is damaged by repeated exposure to stomach acid.

This problem is usually a result of another condition, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is acid backflow into the esophagus caused by a weakened muscle in the esophagus.

It is important to seek treatment for Barrett’s esophagus. If left untreated, the condition can worsen and become cancer of the esophagus.

Symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus

Often, people with Barrett’s esophagus don’t have symptoms. If you have GERD, which can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, you may have symptoms of that disorder, including:

  • Frequent heartburn, which causes sharp pain in the chest and abdomen
  • Taste or feeling of stomach acid or partially digested food in the back of the mouth (regurgitation)
  • Difficulty swallowing

Henry Ford: Our diagnostic process for Barrett’s esophagus

If you have GERD and your symptoms come back after treatment, your physician may suspect Barrett’s esophagus. To confirm a diagnosis, we:

  • Perform a thorough physical exam
  • Discuss your medical history with you to understand your symptoms and family history of any GI disorders
  • May perform endoscopy, a minimally invasive procedure that uses a thin, flexible tube with a lighted camera to inspect the lining of your esophagus for any abnormalities

Barrett’s esophagus: Advanced treatment at Henry Ford

Our approach to treating Barrett’s esophagus focuses on your best possible health. We create a personalized treatment plan to relieve your symptoms and prevent the condition from developing into cancer.

Lifestyle changes for Barrett’s esophagus

One of the first steps we take is to discuss your eating habits with you. In most cases, you can reduce pain and other symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus with a healthy diet.

You can reduce acid reflux by avoiding:

  • Caffeinated, carbonated or alcoholic beverages
  • Tobacco
  • Fatty or fried foods
  • Mints
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Tomatoes or tomato products
  • Spicy foods

Medications to treat Barrett’s esophagus

To help relieve symptoms of GERD, our GI specialists may recommend one or more of the following medications:

  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Prilosec and Prevacid to prevent stomach acid production
  • H2 receptor inhibitors such as Pepcid and Zantac to reduce acid production
  • Antacids such as Rolaids and Mylanta to reduce acid in your stomach

Advanced surgery for Barrett’s esophagus

If you have GERD, your physician monitors you at regular intervals with endoscopy. In this minimally invasive procedure, your physician inserts an endoscope (thin, flexible tube with a lighted camera at the end) to inspect the lining of your esophagus.

This procedure allows your physician to check for any abnormal cells that may be precancerous lesions. We may take a biopsy (tissue sample) to evaluate for cell changes that may be cancer.

If a biopsy shows any precancerous cells, we may recommend surgery to remove the cells. The GI experts at Henry Ford are one of few teams in Michigan offering an endoscopic procedure called HALO 360. This same-day procedure uses radiofrequency ablation (precisely delivered radio waves) to destroy the abnormal cells.

During the HALO procedure, the physician:

  • Uses an endoscope to pinpoint the treatment area
  • Inserts a catheter (thin, flexible tube with tiny instruments at the end) with a tiny balloon
  • Inflates the balloon at the treatment site to measure the diameter of the esophagus
  • Uses another catheter to deliver precise pulses of radiofrequency ablation to destroy the diseased tissue
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